Curiosity: The Simplest and Most Powerful Learning Technology

For those of you that missed today's webinar hosted by the Discovery Education Network (DEN), Dan Rothstein gave an amazing presentation regarding how to teach students to ask their own questions.  In his book, Make Just One Change, Dan offers the simplest and most powerful learning technology, "teaching students to ask their own questions".  After attending the webinar, I decided to type up some notes from the presentation to continue the sharing and learning.

Overarching goal
The goal of the webinar was to quickly learn to teach a simple skill that promotes curiosity.

Student Goals

Students will be able to:
  • Produce their own questions
  • Improve their questions
  • Strategize on how to use their questions
  • Reflect on what they learned and how they learned it

 In order to successfully achieve this goal, teachers must follow the criteria below.

[Note: Don’t give your students examples of questions as this limits creativity and authenticity]

  1. Design a question focus for students
  2. Students use the rules for producing question
  3. Students prioritize their top 3 questions
  4. Students report their top 3 questions

1. Question Focus
  • Ex: Students are not asking questions in the classroom.

2. Rules for Producing Questions
  • Ask as many questions as you can
  • Do not stop to answer, judge or discuss
  • Write down every question exactly as stated
  • Change any statements into question
3. Prioritize
  • Review your list of questions
  • Choose the three questions you consider most important
  • While prioritizing, think back to the Question Focus: Students are not asking questions in the classroom. 
[Note: Have students enter their Top 3 questions into a Google Form (recommended) so everyone can see]

4. Report
  • Questions you changed
  • Priority questions, and the sequence of your priority questions
  • Rationale for choosing priority questions
If performed correctly, this process will help students to develop authentic questions that will stimulate creativity, and critical thinking in all subject areas.

Explanation of Activities

This process works so well because it promotes multiple types of thinking.  As students participate in this process, they actively engage in these three types of thinking, in this sequential order:
  • Divergent Thinking (abstract thinking)
  • Convergent Thinking (critical thinking)
  • Metacognitive Thinking (reflective thinking)
For your consideration

What are advantages and disadvantages to asking closed-ended questions vs. open-ended questions?

One activity could be to practice changing questions from one type to the other (closed to open)
Example: What is the answer? to How did you get your answer?

A fun game to initiate this type of thinking is 21 Questions. The category could be content specific to get students asking questions in context.  Students could play the game first using closed-ended questions, then play again using open-ended questions.  They could reflect on how these types of questions yield different responses.

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